LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 6 (PNA) -- The Department of Health (DOH) Bicol regional office, Novartis Foundation and Provincial Government of Albay will conduct the last mile for leprosy awareness drive during the XTERRA triathlon, an international triathlon event, on Sunday at Cagsawa Ruins, Daraga, Albay.
The undertaking is part of the celebration of the World Leprosy Day.
With the theme “Running the last Mile for Leprosy”, it calls for public consciousness on the DOH’s cause to totally eradicate leprosy in the Philippines.
Leprosy has been eliminated as a public health burden in the Philippines, however, recently it is reemerging with pockets of cases in some areas in the country, including the Bicol Region -- with 57 cases as of 2015, according to DOH Regional Director Napoleon L. Arevalo.
The World Health Organization 2012 report listed new cases in Metro Manila with 99 cases detected and 9-percent prevalence rate; Nueva Ecija (Lupao), with 60 cases and 4-percent prevalence rate, and Cebu City, with 37 cases and 27-percent prevalence rate.
This incidence places the country in the lead in terms of new cases detected in the western Pacific region.
The high prevalence rate indicates that there exists a transmission of the disease in the community, Arevalo explained.
He added that the event is a unique way to remember a forgotten disease like leprosy and strives to generate awareness about the existence of the disease in the community and reduce the stigma to the patients.
“This will emphasize that leprosy is curable and the treatment is free,” the DOH regional official said.
The last mile is the most difficult but rewarding part of the race where an athlete needs to persevere and intensify efforts to reach the finish line, Arevalo said.
Likewise, the DOH is intensifying the efforts and developing better strategies of the leprosy program to find and cure the remaining unseen and untreated cases in achieving a leprosy-free country.
Leprosy is a disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, which affects the skin, nerves and eyes.
Although it is not highly infectious, it is transmitted via droplets from the nose and mouth during close and frequent contact with untreated cases.
The disease is curable but when left untreated it can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes, resulting in permanent disability.
Arevalo said dedicating the last mile for leprosy is a symbolic gesture of support from the triathletes who will run the international competition.
The run intends to define a concrete path toward leprosy-free Philippines and forge commitment to developing the potential collaboration with partners at the global, national and local level.
The event will commence with the briefing of triathletes and a message from Secretary of Health Janet Garin and a Novartis Foundation official before the gun starts.
There will be a commitment wall for leprosy at the finish line.
After the gun start, there will be a symbolic hand-to-hand “United for the Last Mile” walk with Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, Assistant Secretary Dr. Nestor F. Santiago Jr., Arevalo, Novartis Foundation, the private sector, the community together with people cured from leprosy.
“Let us support the campaign to increase public awareness and reduce stigma and discrimination to leprosy patients. We want Bicolanos to live a quality life free from the burden of this disease,” Arevalo said.(PNA) RMA/FGS/CBD/pjn